Marisa Cutillas brings you some of the hardest-working business groups on the Coast, all of which have overcome big obstacles and changed the lives of women with an entrepreneurial spirit for the better.

Words Marisa Cutillas

Marisa Cutillas brings you some of the hardest-working business groups on the Coast, all of which have overcome big obstacles and changed the lives of women with an entrepreneurial spirit for the better.

Words Marisa Cutillas

Costa Women

The words ‘women in business’ undoubtedly conjure up images of one of Marbella’s most active women’s groups: Costa Women, which connects women from all over Spain and abroad. It was founded by pioneer Ali Meehan in 2010. She had always celebrated different cultures and experiences, having lived and worked in Australia, the Middle East, Asia, and the UK. After a decade of travelling, she landed on the Costa del Sol and founded Costa Women with one main goal: to meet new people. Her idea soon grew into a powerful community for women to share essential tips and advice about business, connect with others, and make the most of life on the Coast.

Soon after launching as a free community for women living in or moving to Spain, Costa Women began hosting local meet-ups, eventually branching out to other parts of Spain. In 2014, it won the Best of British Club award from The Telegraph newspaper and launched its first annual International Women’s Day Conference in Marbella in 2013.

Ali and Costa Women have pioneered a myriad of successful projects, including the Spain & Me e-book series, a relocation guide called, and the podcast, Make It Happen (featuring interviews with movers and shakers). The group also launched Costa Women TV and hosts online events and mentorship programmes to help women build successful businesses in Spain.

Today, the group continues with its twofold purpose of being a meeting point and a thriving business network for women in business. One of its most active endeavours is its Business Growth Club. Ali tells us, “The Business Growth Club started around five years ago, and we relaunched it in September this year. We connect two or three times monthly online. Women can come along with business challenges or obtain support for their businesses through our brainstorming sessions. We also have speakers who share their knowledge on a myriad of topics.” Ali reports that the group is launching a business book club as part of the membership this autumn, “The aim is for women to read a business book, then discuss how to implement the advice it contains.”

Ali is always on the lookout for creative ways to fulfil existing demands. For instance, she noticed that over the summer, women can lose their business mojo or get stuck with business ideas. Therefore, this summer, she asked the coaches in the community to share half an hour of their time for free with women seeking help or inspiration. She has also forged powerful connections with Believe, Inspire, Grow (B.I.G.) – a highly active women’s group in New York City. Costa Women and B.I.G. take part in live video conferences once a month.

Costa Women additionally has a strong social component, with many women meeting for book clubs, coffee mornings, lunch excursions, padel, and more get-togethers. The social side is free to join, while the business side has both membership and non-membership options. The group now spans 137 nationalities.

For Ali, the main impediment to women’s progress is “not having enough faith in what we can achieve or who we are. People are sometimes overly concerned with what someone else is doing, but even if you are selling a similar product or service, how you present it is unique because you are sharing from the heart and being yourself.”

“Costa Women meets on the first Friday of every month for a business brunch at PLAY in La Cala de Mijas and has a business group relaunching in Marbella in September,” Ali adds, “The group meets socially on a regular basis in locations from Estepona to the Costa Tropical, as well as Mallorca and the Costa Blanca and online.”

Business Women Community

Business Women Community was founded in 2021 by Latvian entrepreneur, Alexandra Force, with a view to “empowering women to be the change they wish to see.” From as far back as she can recall, Alexandra had a passion for connecting, sharing information, and helping others be their best selves. Her first forays into the professional world were in dancing. As a professionally trained dancer, she was delighted to teach children and teens the techniques of her craft, and she was able to hone vocational talents that would stand her in good stead throughout her career.

Alexandra made a career switch to IT when she moved to London with her partner at the time. She immersed herself in the competitive CRM industry, working for a prestigious salesforce consultancy firm. It was a groundbreaking move – and one she embraced with aplomb, Within very little time, she began working on big projects alongside top experts in the industry. She also travelled extensively after joining her partner’s IT firm, eventually returning to the UK to commence an exciting new role at a consultancy firm.

She built quite an impressive client list, working alongside top companies like L’Oreal, Veganuary, and Onfido. She successfully developed over 100 CRM and MarTech solutions before starting her own IT company in the UK, working alongside organisations the calibre of the London Stock Exchange Group.

The arrival of COVID brought her interpersonal and organisational skills to the fore, as she grew determined to help women in business succeed, despite tough economic times. She launched the Business Woman Community (BWC), holding business events and bringing women from various professions together. She eventually created communities in Bali and Riga in addition to Marbella, and began hosting weekly Mastermind events (in which women discuss business challenges and solutions) and networking dinners (which foster social connection).

BWC also organises trips to London, Portugal, and other cities, so members can attend conferences focusing on a myriad of topics – including Women in Technology. Members have the opportunity to attend a host of workshops, panel events, conferences, and seminars, and receive daily support and motivation.

The group will be hosting a three-day retreat for entrepreneurial women in Marbella from November 24 to 26 this year, to “connect the best of the best under one roof together with transformative coaches and teachers to bring new wisdom and a new state of mind.”

As if all this wasn’t enough to keep Alexandra busy, she is working on a new project – the launch of a business village with condo apartments, between the areas of Marbella and Estepona. “The business village is targeted at women who want to visit Marbella and stay for a longer time. A business village is something I always wish I had, and I’ve decided to take the plunge.”

As the saying goes, one step for Alexandra is a big leap for womankind, as her Business Women Community continues to work hard to create success, happiness, and meaning in women’s lives.

Red Emprendedoras De Marbella

Red Emprendedoras de Marbella (REM) was founded in 2009 by nine members with a clear vision: to bring women together and help them shine in business and other professions. The founding members, who include Marie-Noëlle Erize Tisseau and Mar Arjona, are still active in the group, though the current President is the charismatic Isabel Carrasco, an avid advocate for equal rights for women (including equal pay).

REM meets every second Tuesday of the month for a business breakfast at its headquarters in San Pedro, which was ceded to its members by the City Hall. At the meetup, four members give a presentation about their business. “We have about 140 members, so this talk is a good opportunity for members to let others know more about their activities and developments.”

The group also attends workshops to help them stay on top of their game – particularly in the area of technology. “The pandemic was a bit of a slap in the face for many businesses, so we decided to organise workshops to get women up to speed on topics like how to sell products via Instagram, or how to use Facebook and LinkedIn for business purposes. Our members presented these conferences, which were always packed, even when COVID restrictions limited the size of gatherings.”

Other topics covered included tax and legal reforms, with talks given by members from the legal profession. REM has a close relationship with the Town Hall, whose Urban Planning Delegate at the time, Kika Carracuel, gave a talk on the latest PGOU developments.

As is the case with all Marbella’s most active women’s groups, REM has partnered up with other women’s associations, including Mujeres Siglo XXI from Bilbao and BPW International. The latter was founded in 1930 and spans over 100 countries in five continents. REM also has a voice at the United Nations (at both the national and international levels). “Taking part in UN assemblies is very fulfilling, and it provides us with a fantastic opportunity for visibility and allows us to interact with national and international movers and shakers in the business community.”

REM additionally organises special trips. “In October,” Isabel tells me, “we will be travelling to Bilbao to attend Mujeres Siglo XXI’s ‘Alfiler de Oro’ event.” The latter is an annual prize awarded by the group to women with an international presence and an impeccable professional trajectory.

REM is firmly focused on business and helping women achieve their professional goals, but it is also a family. As Isabel says, “Whenever any member needs something, another member is there to lend them a hand.” Keep up to date on all the latest REM events by clicking on their website and social media channels.

Ellas Spanje: The Dutch-Speaking Women’s Business Club Costa del Sol

Ellas was founded 20 years ago – a true testimony to the importance of the Dutch and Belgian businesswomen on the Coast. Their President, Marjan Schut, recalls, “Of the three women who founded Ellas, two are still members of honour and the third is still a member.” Marjan herself is indicative of the experience that members bring to the Coast, having been the director and major shareholder of Abiding Holding in the Netherlands and now serving as a managing partner of ESpecial Life – a Dutch magazine distributed on the Coast.

Ellas’ mission is to help Dutch and Belgian women shine in the entrepreneurial world and grow their business networks. Members meet every second Tuesday of the month to enjoy a meal and learn something about each other’s businesses. While there is a social component involved, make no mistake about it, this group is all about helping members with information and advice, and creating fruitful collaborations. “At our meetings, two or three members share information about their businesses and the challenges they are experiencing,” says Marjan. Which doesn’t mean they don’t have fun while they’re at it! Marjan tells me, “Our board member, Helga, organises events such as our recent gastronomic tour of Málaga. For this event, she divided us (including our partners) into four groups of eight, and the groups were shuffled for each part of the meal: starter, main, and dessert, each of which took place in a different restaurant. We were only told our first destination. At each stop, there was a card telling us where to go next. After dessert, we all met at a bar and it was so much fun. Not only did we get to know each other, but also discovered more about the City.”

In addition to meeting for business purposes, the club has a WhatsApp group, where members can receive advice on everything from where to find a plumber to recommendations for new staff. The group is diverse indeed, as it comprises everything from architects to real estate professionals, a veterinarian, an official Málaga tour guide, and more!

Every two years, Ellas organises the Tulip Festival, which welcomes people from across the Coast. “This event has brought us 10 new members and two more are waiting to join up. Before anyone can join, all members have a talk with one of the board members”

There are also events that foster health and wellbeing, like breath work on the beach. “The group usually organises an evening on the beach in September,” Marjan explains. Let’s not forget fundraising efforts. “In July, one of our members organised a rowing trip on wooden boats, from Barcelona to Mallorca, to raise money for the HPV virus problem.”

Marjan is enthusiastic about an upcoming event: a workshop by a Dutch notary on testamentary law. And in December, the group will receive a visit from Sinterklaas, who will be bringing a host of presents to the women!